It’s rather fitting that the Volkswagen Touareg V6 TDI Wolfsburg is the latest model have the coat of arms of its maker’s home town stickered to its rump.
Okay, the Touareg is actually made in Slovakia. But it has long been Volkswagen’s flagship – in Australia – and where almost every other model has become more affordable in an attempt to poach sales from mainstream models, this SUV hasn’t.
Instead this large offroader, which shares its platform with the (previous generation) Audi Q7 and Porsche Cayenne, continues to wear its semi-premium positioning with pride. Wolfsburg special editions started with the Golf R Wagon and Scirocco coupe, but now the name of the German central-north city has been applied to the Touareg.
Although the five-seater range starts from $68,990 plus on-road costs for the 150TDI, extra goodies have been applied to the middle-tier $81,990 (plus orc) V6 TDI to create this $88,990 (plus orc) V6 TDI Wolfsburg.
Vehicle Style: Large SUV
Price: $88,990 (plus on-road costs)
Engine/trans: 180kW/550Nm 3.0 V6 turbo diesel | 8spd automatic
Fuel Economy Claimed: 7.4 l/100km | Tested: 10.6 l/100km
The second-generation Touareg came out in 2011, so the six-year-old model needed a spruce-up in order to maintain interest in Volkswagen’s single SUV contender beyond the medium-sized Tiguan.
Although the V6 TDI Wolfsburg costs $8000 more than the regular V6 TDI, at the time of writing Volkswagen was promoting both eight-speed auto-equipped 3.0-litre turbo-diesel V6 models at the same $88,990 driveaway price nationwide.
Beyond the badge, the limited edition special most notably adds a different style of 20-inch alloy wheel now painted in black, and more premium Nappa leather trim in a stitched-diamond or ‘quilted’ pattern, along with ventilated front seats.
Usually a $5400 option, the Driver Assistance Package further graduates to the standard equipment list, incorporating adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitor with lane-departure warning, and forward collision warning with autonomous emergency braking (AEB) – although these days that should be included for $80K-plus anyway.
- Standard Equipment: Power windows and mirrors, multi-function trip computer, dual-zone climate control air-conditioning, leather-wrapped steering wheel, Nappa leather trim with electrically adjustable heated and ventilated front seats, adaptive cruise control, auto on/off headlights and wipers, keyless auto-entry and electric tailgate
- Infotainment: 8.0-inch colour touchscreen with Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, 60Gb internal drive, single USB port and twin SD card readers
- Options Fitted: None
- Cargo Volume: 580 to 1642 litres
Depending on the perspective, the Touareg is either a unique service provider (USP) or on its own bizarre little island within the large SUV segment.
Its $70K-plus sticker means it can’t compete with the Mazda CX-9 and Toyota Kluger in a family hauling class that kicks off from just $40K. That’s despite Volkswagen competing with models from those brands in almost every other segment.
Instead, the Touareg continues to edge towards the near-$100K opening price of its more premium Volkswagen Group cousin, the Audi Q7. Worryingly, it also falls bang-on with the sales-leading BMW X5 that also offers seven seats.
The Wolfsburg is a big SUV, but one that only seats five, and some will instantly turn away from it for that alone. On the flipside, for the price of an entry model from a ‘premium’ brand, Volkswagen mostly provides fully-loaded luxury for the price.
At 4.8 metres long, the Touareg is about the size of the new Jaguar F-Pace, which is also a five-seater and positioned as larger than a BMW X3 but smaller than an X5.
The Volkswagen seats its five occupants in a spacious cabin topped with lush plastics and tactile knurled-silver switchgear to match its sumptuous leather. There’s decent practicality, too, with a sliding and reclining rear seat that’s rare in the class.
Consider further niceties such as black-velour-trimmed storage pockets and the perception of quality is so high that it becomes apparent why Volkswagen apparently can’t discount the Touareg and rival a Kluger – it feels more special than that.
In other ways this large SUV is ageing rapidly, however. The 8.0-inch touchscreen is a low-resolution unit and the software carries over from decade-old Volkswagens.
The interface remains easy to use, but the screen requires such a hefty poke that a stylus – remember those? – is almost required. Selections are as slow to engage as the surround-view camera is to activate, while neither Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone mirroring technology nor a digital radio are available.
The eight-speaker audio system is dreadfully dour, and a 12-speaker, 620-watt Dynaudio alternative is reserved for the pricey $116,300 (plus orc) Touareg V8 TDI.
The Wolfsburg may be better equipped than the average – and we do mean average – F-Pace and X5, but other equipment is also missing, including a head-up display and four-zone climate control air-conditioning.
At least air suspension is standard, and its handy ‘load’ setting proves a fabulous aid in lugging large and heavy items into the decently cavernous 580-litre luggage area – which thanks to 40:20:40 split-fold backrest, can be further expanded at the touch of an electrically-operated, boot-mounted button.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 180kW/550Nm 3.0 V6 turbo diesel
- Transmission: Eight-speed automatic, AWD
- Suspension: Independent front and rear
- Brake: Ventilated front and rear disc brakes
- Steering: Hydraulically assisted mechanical steering
To the human ear it seems impossible that Volkswagen’s diesel V6 could have been caught up in the dirty emissions-cheating scandal, simply because this engine is among the smoothest, quietest and sweetest units around.
With 550Nm of torque produced from 1750rpm until 2250rpm and 180kW of power between 4000rpm and 4400rpm, the V6 TDI is fabulously flexible and exceptionally effortless.
Allied with an intelligent and smooth shifting Japanese-made Aisin eight-speed auto, there’s simply shove everywhere in this mighty 2159kg large SUV.
The Wolfsburg is a wolf in sheeps clothing, its 7.6-second 0-100km/h seems pessimistic. Despite an urban focus on-test, it posted impressive fuel consumption of 10.6 litres per 100 kilometres. The Touareg absolutely gets full marks under-bonnet.
To varying degrees, however, the Touareg’s steering and chassis feel as dated as the infotainment system.
Mostly, the air suspension works beautifully in each of its three modes, with the softest Comfort being genuinely plush at low speed around town; but on urban arterials or freeways it can cause enough occupant head-toss to be nauseating.
Normal tightens things up slightly, but the low-profile 45-aspect 20-inch tyres then permit surface niggles into the cabin. Only Sport keeps the body perfectly tight while never being harsh; but this time, many minor intrusions filter through.
Quite simply, the suspension could work much better in a lighter car or an SUV with sensible tyres. Driving a Holden Calais Sportwagon in the same week as this test revealed that the locally-tuned car with 18-inch tyres and fixed dampers could deliver the compliance of the Touareg’s Comfort mode with the control of its Sport setting.
Old-school hydraulic steering can’t deliver automatic park assistance, either, and its looseness on the centre position leaves freeway lane-changing to the vagaries of guesswork; although it tightens up nicely through tighter corners.
Still, it’s that engine and automatic – along with a huge 3.5 tonne towing capacity – that are rightly the stars of the show here.
ANCAP has not tested the Volkswagen Touareg.
Safety Features: Dual front, front-side, driver’s knee, rear-side and full-length curtain airbags, ABS and ESC, front and rear parking sensors with surround-view camera, blind-spot monitor with lane-keep assistance, forward collision warning with low-speed autonomous emergency braking (AEB).
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three years, unlimited kilometres.
Servicing: Volkswagen’s capped price servicing program covers the first six years or 90,000km, with checks annually or every 15,000km at a higher-than-average cost of $533 each for the first two and $853 for the third and $719 for the fourth.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
For this price an X5 won’t be as well-equipped and offers only a four-cylinder diesel, but seven seats are available. The F-Pace is similarly sized but needs options and a V6 diesel to shine, at which point it becomes as expensive as an XC90 – although the Swede then demands optional air suspension to really shine.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
With its radiant hue and chunky black alloy wheels, the Volkswagen Touareg V6 TDI Wolfsburg snared a few inquisitive glances from people passing by during this test.
It’s surprising for such an old vehicle and one that doesn’t sell well, but so remains an inherently good large SUV.
With relatively minor enhancements such as a head-up display, automatic park assistance, four-zone climate, a sweeter audio system and much, much better infotainment connectivity, the Touareg could improve its score. With smaller wheels, this Volkswagen could likewise be nicer to drive.
Even so, with that superb drivetrain and high-quality cabin, the Wolfsburg still packs just enough hunting prowess to claw at newer contenders in the class.
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